Consider for a minute the global East and West. When you compare the two side by side a number of defining and opposite characteristics probably flash through your mind – some stereotypical some perhaps not. But when it comes to core guiding principles there is a stark contrast. The East typically draws on a collectivist culture that values the group over the individual. Whereas the West draws on an individualistic culture that values individual liberties over the group.
This individualistic culture has been on the rise in the last few decades with some coining the term the “me generation” or “me culture”.
The spread of “me” and “I”
This rise in individualism is prevalent in all aspects of our culture. Living alone is no longer considered weird, single parents are more common, children are more likely to move far away from home. Even in language, the use of the words “I” and “me” are on the rise.
The debate over the me vs you culture has been raging for as long as individualism has been on the rise. Is it good? Is it bad? What exactly does it mean for our future? Some people vehemently hate the rise of self-obsession where are others revel in the autonomy. The truth is that there are both ups and downs to individualism just as with collectivism. Both these ups and downs are being brought to light particularly in the workplace.
The rise of individualism has brought a whole host of new problems but also new positives into the workplace. Some of these positives include an increase in:
But these positives can often be overshadowed or dampened by some negatives that can hinder:
Workplaces often believe promoting collectivism can counteract some of these negatives, but you will lose the positives and if you’re particularly reliant on traits like creativity and critical thinking you’re going to lose out.
It’s a careful balancing act to play in promoting an individualist and collectivist cultures in a workplace, but with careful managing. If you’re aware of the negatives and put measures in place so you can get the best of both worlds.